By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said that convicted Assembly of God Youth Minister John Astorga should go to prison, ”To ensure that he does not have the opportunity to continue to prey upon innocent children.” Circuit Judge Ben Fuller agreed and sentenced John A. Astorga to 36 months on each count, with the sentences to be served concurrently.
Attorney General Strange said before sentencing, “We urge the Court to consider the predatory nature of this man’s crimes and the devastation caused to his child victims, and to impose a prison term. We are deeply concerned about the damage that he has done and want to ensure that he does not have the opportunity to continue to prey upon innocent children.”
An Elmore County Circuit Court jury found John A. Astorga guilty on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse on April 11. The Attorney General’s press release said, “During the trial, evidence that was presented by the Attorney General’s Office that included the testimony of three separate victims as well as the pastor of Bethel Assembly of God in Wetumpka where Astorga had been employed.”
According to reporting by the ‘Montgomery Advertiser’s’ Marty Roney, Mr. Astorga’s defense attorney argued that since the two teens were older than 16 that Mr. Astorga should have been sentenced to just probation. Attorney Sam Patridge said, “We respect the jury’s decision, but we disagree with it. He has no criminal history whatsoever. He is no threat to the community. He is gainfully employed. There was no compulsion in the case.” “It is reprehensible that he had an affair, but it isn’t criminal.”
Mr. Astorga is facing similar charges in Madison and Cullman counties for sex crimes against children. It was revealed during the trial that the charges in both of those counties involved the same victims in this case.
Mr. Astorga is a 37 resident of Wetumpka. He was led away in handcuffs following his sentencing.
‘The Montgomery Advertiser’ reported that Astorga apologized to his victims before his sentence was announced, “This is one of the hardest things I’ve been through,’ he said. “At the time I thought it was mutual, but I was horribly wrong, totally wrong.”
Attorney General Strange commended the efforts of all involved in the case, giving special note to Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Arrington and John Hensley of the Attorney General’s Criminal Trials Division, the Special Agents of the Attorney General’s Investigations Division and of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office and the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office.